|Sachin Tendulkar, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara, walks out to bat on the second day of his final Test, which eventually turned out to be the last time
The Master batted in international cricket
Calcutta: Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been doing wonders for India at the most critical No.3 position, spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on Sachin Tendulkar.
The interview, done over the phone, was conducted hours before Pujara’s departure for South Africa.
Test No.1 in South Africa, at the Wanderers, begins on Wednesday. It will, incidentally, be the first in the post-Sachin era.
Q To what extent has Sachin been an inspiration?
A In a big way, not just for me, but for many across the world.
When did you start following Sachin’s exploits?
I must have been 6-7 years old... I can’t recall the first match that I watched Sachin play, but the way he dominated the bowling left a quick and lasting impression. He won matches single-handedly and one could make out that the bowlers feared his presence.
The first time you saw Sachin in person...
In a Duleep Trophy match, against South. But I’m not great with venues and the seasons, so I can’t be specific.
So, what did you tell Sachin or what did he tell you?
Didn’t speak much, but I do remember watching every move of Sachin as he prepared... It was fascinating, for he was so meticulous. To succeed, one needs to emulate his work ethic.
But when did you get down to actually talking cricket with Sachin?
Later... At every opportunity, in fact... I always had a lot of questions and was curious to know how Sachin had become so successful. His answer: It was more a mental thing... Over time, he suggested a few adjustments, which I took on board straightaway... Sachin, you know, is full of energy.
It’s not that you had to initiate a conversation with Sachin...
No. There were times when Sachin noticed something at nets and had a word with me. So, it’s not that I had to go to him all the time.
Did Sachin present you your Test cap in Bangalore (against Australia, in 2010)?
(Virender) Sehwag did.
But what did Sachin tell you that morning?
I didn’t get the chance to speak to anybody as my inclusion was almost at the last minute, when (VVS) Laxman pulled out. There was just enough time to mentally begin focusing on the soon-to-begin Test.
What was it like to share the India dressing room with Sachin?
An education... One learnt so much by just watching Sachin. One saw the effort he put in, not leaving anything to chance.
Sachin’s last partnership (144 for the third wicket in Mumbai) as an India cricketer involved you...
Well, I was privileged and am happy that Sachin could go out on a high... A very good innings (74), a great win... One couldn’t have asked for more. Sachin, I must add, had been determined and he neither let himself nor anybody else down.
There was that pep talk from Sachin in the lead up to the opening day’s play of his final Test. Did it impact big?
Sachin was brilliant in those few minutes... Basically, he said that God had given us the opportunity to represent our country, to make it proud, and that we shouldn’t let go of the opportunity... That we had a responsibility to perform.
Did Sachin’s farewell speech move you too?
I had to control myself... That speech won’t be forgotten... In any case, it was tough getting to accept that Sachin wouldn’t be in our midst any more. We’ve all had such an emotional attachment to him, after all.
One piece of advice from Sachin you won’t forget...
I’ll be remembering plenty of things.
What should the emerging generation take in the most from Sachin?
To start with, they ought to be as dedicated as Sachin... Have his hunger and try and emulate his shot selection. And, of course, have the confidence to deflect all the pressure.
Lastly... Sachin’s name will be missing from the XI at the Wanderers...
One day or the other, Sachin had to retire. It’s up to us now to remember his pep talk.